fake election 2016

The Good Wife’s Showrunners on Running a Fake Election Campaign Against the Real Hillary Clinton

L-R: Hillary Clinton and Peter Florrick, played by Chris Noth. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

This season, The Good Wife picks up with Illinois governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth) throwing his hat into the Democratic presidential ring. As they often do, showrunners Robert and Michelle King upped the ante by having Governor Florrick run against real politicians, rather than made-up ones or fictionalized stand-ins. Peter’s biggest challenger? Hillary Clinton. The Kings spoke with Vulture about the difficult task they’ve set for the show’s seventh season, and how real life has mucked with their narrative. 

Why did you decide to have Peter run against Hillary rather than a Hillary-like character?
Michelle King: It’s so much more interesting to us if we could make it as real a race as possible. 
Robert King: I’ve never loved shows where they use realistic events but then have to create a fictional country for them to take place in. Homeland is so much fun [because] it involves real events going on. That’s just our taste. Sometimes what’s happening in the news is much more interesting.

Did CBS have any apprehension when you told them what you planning to do?
Michelle: We contacted them very early on in the writing process to get ourselves educated as to what the laws were that we had to stay within. They didn’t have any concerns creatively; we just had concerns about making sure we weren’t running afoul of anything.

Aren’t you concerned that something politically unexpected will happen that will make you have to alter the dynamics of the show? What if, for example, there’s some left-field scandal that causes Hillary to drop out?  
Robert: We were shooting about two months before a show airs, so there’s a natural amount of uncertainty we just have to deal with.
Michelle: Our worries are about the episodes leading up to the Iowa Caucus because, in many ways, we need a little more certainty than politics supply. We should tell the politicians that if they would just be a little more consistent with their behavior, it would help us out a lot!  
Robert: We have a line in the show about [Scott] Walker as though he’s still in the race. So we’re not sure whether we’ll change that or leave it the way it is. A character makes a reference to Peter Florrick sounding like Scott Walker on unions, and we obviously weren’t anticipating Walker dropping out when he did.

Are you watching the news in a different way than you were before?
Robert: We’ve always been pretty rabid followers of the news. We don’t know for sure at this point whether Biden will enter the race or not, so the episodes are very Hillary-obsessed — and Bernie Sanders is talked about, too.
Michelle: We don’t know what will happen with Biden, so you might find us behind a little bit if Biden does enter the race. 
Robert: And [Jim] Webb is talked about as a conflict for Peter Florrick. But even though Peter is running for president, what he’s really trying to do is pull a John Edwards and get enough of a play by coming second in Iowa to therefore show himself as worthy of being vice-president. That’s his strategy.

Will the show explore Hillary as a person at all?
Robert: Can we put an asterisk here? What we’re doing is we’re showing how a campaign like Peter Florrick’s, the governor of a big democratic state, would rely on the fact that Obama came from that state, and try to play into it. He’s only talking about the competition with Hillary and Bernie Sanders to show that it’s happening in that real world. We don’t go deeply into these other politicians as people. It’s more as background to the Florrick campaign’s political ops.

I’m sure you saw that, in one of the leaked emails, Hillary mentioned that she watches The Good Wife
Michelle: The first person who forwarded that to us is a friend of ours who is a comedy writer, so I thought he was making a joke.
Robert: Yeah, Bill Prady, who runs The Muppets, wrote us, and we were like, “Well, this joke is not really up to Bill’s usual standards.”

Do you think the way you write about these real-life candidates might influence the way your viewers think about them?
Robert: That would be the last thing we want. Oh my God, we don’t even want to influence our daughter about how she votes in her school election. We would hate that. The show is always kind of meant to be comic, and about how absurd politics is. That’s the focus.

Does Peter feel like a strong candidate?
Robert: Yes. I think he is. His story is pretty darn good. This is a guy who went to prison as governor, was found innocent and found wrongly convicted, and his wife has forgiven him. If Hillary were looking for a vice-president, Peter looks good. I could see someone wanting to go for someone like that. And Peter knows that Bernie Sanders is breaking left, so what he’s trying to do is break a little right of Hillary. There’s an opening for him to show that the Democratic Party is a big tent party, and that it’s not all about going left. 
Michelle: I personally endorse Peter Florrick for president of the United States. You heard it here first.

Behind Good Wife’s Peter vs. Hillary Campaign